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Iraq under US Occupation

Blackwater USA

Project: Iraq Under US Occupation
Open-Content project managed by AJB, KJF, mtuck

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Blackwater logo.Blackwater logo. [Source: Blackwater]In June 1997, three months after having been discharged from active duty, ex-Navy Seal Erik Prince incorporates the Blackwater Training Center. He purchases more than 4000 acres in Currituck County, North Carolina, for $756,000, and nearly one thousand acres in Camden County for $616,000. The new compound is built near the Great Dismal Swamp. The stated idea behind Blackwater was “to fulfill the anticipated demand for government outsourcing of firearms and related security training.” In May 1998, Blackwater opens for business. It is suggested that the early years of Blackwater are slow going, but the volume of secret contracts makes that difficult to verify. [Scahill, 3/1/2007]

Entity Tags: Blackwater USA, Erik Prince

Category Tags: Blackwater USA, Military Privatization

Compounding effect of multiple tiers of subcontractorsCompounding effect of multiple tiers of subcontractors [Source: News Observer] (click image to enlarge)Despite the fact that the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP) contract explicitly prohibits Halliburton and its subcontractors from subcontracting security services, Halliburton subcontractor ESS hires the firm Blackwater USA to provide security through Regency Hotel, another subcontractor. Each of the subcontractors involved in this arrangement will charge a substantial mark-up for the security personnel. Blackwater pays its security guards $600 per day and charges Regency $815 per day plus overhead costs, while Regency charges ESS between $1200 and $1500 per day for each security guard. It is not known what ESS charges Halliburton or what the final bill is for the taxpayer. Halliburton refuses to disclose this information to Congress. Congressman Henry Waxman, in a letter to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, will suggest that Halliburton’s invoice to the US government for these services was not legal and should not have been paid. [Regency Hotel & Hospital Company, 3/12/2004 pdf file; News & Observer, 10/24/2004; News & Observer, 10/28/2006; US Congress, 12/7/2006 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Regency Hotel, Halliburton, Inc., Blackwater USA, ESS

Category Tags: Security, Blackwater USA, Halliburton

The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA)‘s Private Security Company Working Group, an internal agency within the CPA that handles the hiring and deployment of private security firms in Iraq, notes: “We are creating a private army on an unpricidented [sic] scale. This will be the largest private security force ever assembled. It will be larger than Coalition Forces and will represent a force for good or harm depending on our insistance [sic] on the rule of law.” [Roberts, 2008, pp. 128]

Entity Tags: Private Security Company Working Group, Coalition Provisional Authority

Category Tags: Blackwater USA, Military Privatization

The burned, mutilated corpses of two Blackwater contractors hang from a bridge outside Fallujah while Iraqi civilians celebrate.The burned, mutilated corpses of two Blackwater contractors hang from a bridge outside Fallujah while Iraqi civilians celebrate. [Source: NoGW.com]Four employees of the private security firm Blackwater, Jerry Zovko, Wesley Batalona, Scott Helvenston and Michael Teague, are killed by small arms fire while driving through Fallujah. [The News Observer, 7/8/2007] Their bodies are then taken out of their convoy and mutilated by an angry mob. Images of two corpses of the contractors hanging from a bridge over the Euphrates River are sent all over the world. The families of the four slain men later file a lawsuit against Blackwater claiming that the company broke their contract by cutting corners on security costs in order to make a greater profit. The convoy that the Blackwater employees were driving lacked both armor for protection and a rear gunner, making it extremely easy for a few Iraqi gunmen to kill them. There also was an alternate path around Fallujah the men could have taken but did not know about because Blackwater did not conduct a “risk assessment,” which they were contractually obligated to do. [Nation, 5/8/2006] In July 2007, memos from another Blackwater team published in the media blame Blackwater’s Baghdad manager, Tom Powell, for sending the two teams into Fallujah undermanned, underarmed, and without maps (see June 8, 2007).

Entity Tags: Tom Powell, Wesley Batalona, Scott Helvenston, Jerry Zovko, Michael Teague, Blackwater USA

Category Tags: Blackwater USA, Security

Blackwater Worldwide, one of several Blackwater brand companies, deploys CS nerve gas on a crowded Green Zone checkpoint from both a helicopter and an armored vehicle. Army Captain Kincy Clark documents and reports the incident. Former Army lawyers will state that use of such riot control agents requires the approval of the military’s most senior commanders. Blackwater initially had a contract to provide security for American officials in Iraq with the Coalition Provisional Authority, an agreement which did not address the use of CS gas. When the contracts for Blackwater, DynCorp, and Triple Canopy are renewed after the incident, these contracts will forbid the use of CS gas. Commanders in the field will state that they fear the incident being used for propaganda by insurgents, who will say the US was using chemical weapons. [New York Times, 1/10/2008]

Entity Tags: Kincy Clark, Blackwater USA

Category Tags: Blackwater USA

Blackwater’s Bagdad manager gets the blame for the death of four Blackwater employees in Fallujah in 2004 (see March 31, 2004). Memos show that Blackwater sent two teams out, named Bravo 2 and November 1. Both were sent out with four men instead of the usual six. Bravo 2 protested that they weren’t ready for the mission, which was guarding empty flatbed trucks and picking up a food service company executive. They had no maps and had no time to prepare their weapons, but both teams were commanded to go anyway. Bravo 2 refused to follow their directions to drive through Fallujah, and instead drove around it and returned safely to Baghdad that evening. The four members of November 1 followed orders, went into Fallujah, and were massacred. Bravo 2 team memos blame Blackwater’s Baghdad site manager Tom Powell for giving these orders. For instance, team member Daniel Browne will later write in a memo that “we all want to kill him.” Memos about the incident will surface in mid-July 2007 after Congress opens an inquiry into Blackwater’s activities in Iraq. Like other private security firms, Blackwater has received hundreds of millions of dollars in federal contracts, with little or no oversight from Congress until 2007. Had a military officer sent four lightly armed soldiers into Fallujah and had them killed in such a brutal and public manner, that officer likely would have faced public scrutiny and a military inquiry. But Blackwater has never conducted such a public probe, and for years will refuse to provide documents such as the Bravo 2 memos to Congress. The families of the four members of November 1 have sued Blackwater in an effort to find out what happened. [The News Observer, 7/8/2007]

Entity Tags: Tom Powell, Blackwater USA, Daniel Browne

Category Tags: Blackwater USA

It is reported that over 1,000 civilian private contractors have died in Iraq and Afghanistan since the start of hostilities in those countries. An additional 13,000 have been wounded. The casualty figures come from the Department of Labor. Civilians work in a number of areas in Iraq, from providing security and servicing weapons systems, to more mundane tasks such as logistics, construction, truck driving, and maintenance (see April 4, 2007). [Reuters, 3/7/2004] Roughly one contractor dies for every four members of the armed forces. But despite the risks, Americans are lining up for jobs in the two war zones, lured by the prospects of high pay and, for some, adventure. As of the end of April 2007, 224 of the killed contractors were US citizens. [Reuters, 3/7/2004]

Entity Tags: Blackwater USA, Aegis Defence Services, Vinnell Corporation, US Department of Labor

Category Tags: Bechtel, Blackwater USA, Custer Battles, Halliburton, Military Privatization

January 28, 2009: Iraq Expels Blackwater

The Iraqi government informs the US Embassy in Baghdad that it will not issue a new operating license to Blackwater Worldwide, the embassy’s main security company. In effect, the decision forces Blackwater to cease operations within Iraq. Many Blackwater employees are accused of using excessive force while protecting US diplomats and State Department personnel. Those Blackwater employees not accused of improper conduct may continue working as private security contractors in Iraq, as long as they quit Blackwater and begin working for other firms. Blackwater must leave Iraq as soon as a joint US-Iraqi committee finalizes guidelines for the conduct and liability of private contractors under the new security agreement between the two countries. Under earlier agreements, Blackwater and other US contractors have been entirely immune from prosecution under Iraqi law. Iraqi Interior Ministry spokesman Major General Abdul-Karim Khalaf says, “When the work of this committee ends,” private security companies “will be under the authority of the Iraqi government, and those companies that don’t have licenses, such as Blackwater, should leave Iraq immediately.” US State Department spokesman Noel Clay says the department’s contractors will obey Iraqi law: “We will work with the government of Iraq and our contractors to address the implications of this decision in a way that minimizes any impact on safety and security of embassy Baghdad personnel.” A Blackwater spokeswoman says her firm is unaware of the Iraqi government’s decision. The Interior Ministry revoked Blackwater’s license to operate in Iraq in September 2007 and threatened to expel the firm’s employees, but US officials ignored the order and renewed the company’s contract. Blackwater contractors have been involved in around 200 shootings in Iraq since 2005, many involving Iraqi civilians. Five Blackwater contractors face manslaughter charges for killing 17 Iraqi civilians in September 2007, the incident that prompted the Interior Ministry to try to expel the firm from the country. The widow of one of the 17 civilians, Umm Tahsin, says of Blackwater: “Those people are a group of criminals. What they did was a massacre. Pushing them out is the best solution. They destroyed our family.” [Washington Post, 1/28/2009]

Entity Tags: Blackwater USA, Abdul-Karim Khalaf, Umm Tahsin, US Department of State, Noel Clay, Iraqi Ministry of the Interior

Category Tags: Blackwater USA, Security, Military Privatization, Oversight and Transparency

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